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vo                                                                                                             B. POLEVOI
that the one in black had murdered the wounded, and
the Soviet Army man, who had been still alive, had
rushed upon the murderer at the very moment that
he was stabbing the nurse and had clutched the enemy
by his throat with all the remaining strength in his
And' so the blizzard had buried them all—the frail
girl in the fur cap sheltering the wounded man with
her body, and these two, the murderer and the avenger,
holding each other by the throat, lying at her feet,
which were encased in old army top-boots with broad
Alexei stood there transfixed for several moments, then
hobbled towards the nurse and pulled the dagger out
of her back. It proved to be an SS dirk, fashioned like an
ancient German sword, with a silver SS emblem on the
mahogany hilt. On the rusty blade the inscription: "Alles
fiir Deutschland" could still be discerned. Alexei removed
the leather scabbard of the dirk from the German's body;
he would need the weapon on his journey. Then he dug
the hard, frozen ground sheet out from under the snow,
tenderly covered the nurse's body with it and laid a few
pine branches upon it....
By that time, dusk set in. The strips of light between
the trees died out. Dense and frosty darkness enveloped
the hollow. It was quiet here, but the evening wind swept
through the tree tops and the forest sang, at one moment
a soothing lullaby, at another a melody of anxiety and
alarm. The fine dry snow, no longer visible to the eye,
but swishing softly and pricking the face, was blown
into the hollow.
Born in Kamyshin, in the Volga steppe, a town-dweller,
inexperienced in woodcraft, Alexei had not taken the
trouble to prepare for the night, or to light a fire. Over-
taken by the intense darkness and conscious of excruciat-
ing pain in his fractured and weary feet, he had not the
strength to collect firewood; he crawled into the thick
undergrowth of a young pine, sat down under the tree,
hunched his shoulders, rested his head upon his knees
which he clasped in his arms and, warming himself with
his own breath, sat quite still, enjoying the quiet and